Excessive speeding and distracted driving continue to pose significant dangers to Mountain View County residents and visitors alike, says Reeve Bruce Beattie.
Responding to newly released statistics showing that last year county peace officers issued more than two dozen tickets to motorists caught driving at least 50 kilometres per hour over posted limits on county roads, Beattie said the situation remains wholly unacceptable.
“We’re seeing these excessive speeds here and across Alberta,” said Beattie. “It is in these rural areas that those excessive speeds are responsible for significant portions of those fatalities.
“It is frustrating for me and it should be frustrating for anyone who has read the statistics.”
Coun. Jeremy Sayer added, “I’m shocked at how fast some people are travelling.”
Peace officers Kevin Heppler and Rob Ridley appeared before council on Feb. 8 to go over the 2016 Community Peace Officer Year-end Report, which sets out traffic and other enforcement statistics.
Mountain View County peace officers issued tickets totalling more than $285,000 last year, according to the report.
The report included a section on tickets issued for “50-plus kilometres over” speeding.
Of the 27 cases listed, six were for speeds 60 kilometres or more over. For example, on July 26 a motorist was caught driving 157 km/h in an 80/km zone in Eagle Hill, while another driver was caught driving 163 km/h in a 90/km zone on July 30.
Peace officers continue to see distracted driving across the county, Heppler said.
In response, Reeve Beattie said, “It (distracted driving) continues to be a problem and we know how serious and dangerous it is.
“Distracted driving is the equivalent of impaired driving. There is no less reason why those people shouldn’t be prosecuted, but we can’t seem to come to grips with that issue.”
Beattie renewed his call for Alberta to impose a vehicle seizure program for motorists caught driving 40 km/h over.
“I will continue to push for a 40-over rule (in Alberta),” said Beattie. “We will be meeting with K Division (Alberta RCMP) at an upcoming AAMDC (Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties) meeting to talk about the excessive speed.
“We have seen a significant reduction in fatality accidents in British Columbia as a result of them introducing the over 40 kilometre vehicle seizure rule and we’ve seen it in Ontario and Quebec.
“So I will continue to support that. We heard from our constables that they are very much in support of that.”
In all, 1,153 tickets of all types were issued in the county in 2016, with fines totalling $286,026.
The most tickets were issued in July (188), followed by September (120), May (120) and August (115). The least number were issued in December (45).
Based on type of incident, there were 1,085 speeding incidents, 118 bylaw inquiries and complaints, 36 other traffic incidents (such as tinted windows, no insurance or registration), and 25 stop sign violations.
The most traffic tickets were issued in the Wessex district (172), followed by 142 in Fallen Timber, 128 in Hainstock, 106 in Jackson and 104 in Dogpound. There were only five tickets issued in Bearberry-Coal Camp, the lowest by district in the county.
A total of 1,148 traffic tickets were issued, compared with 1,951 in 2015 and 1,554 in 2014.
Officer Heppler said the decline might have to do with the economy.
“People are maybe staying home more because they don’t have extra money to go places,” Heppler said.
“The (enforcement) program has seen a slight decrease in both traffic stops and bylaw enforcement cases over the last year, which is indicative to the economy.”
Fines are divided between the province and the county. Victims of crime receive 15 per cent, the province approximately 27 per cent and the county approximately 58 per cent, he said.
Officer Rob Ridley said county peace officers work to support local RCMP officers in the fight against rural crime.
“We do try to play some support role for the RCMP, primarily by way of visibility,” said Ridley. “The community appreciates having the presence of an enforcement vehicle in the rural areas. We do try to do visibility support where we can act as a deterrent.”
Reeve Beattie and director of operations Ron Baker commended MVC officers for their efforts.
“We really do appreciate the work you guys do,” said Beattie.
Councillors passed a motion to accept the report as information.